Preview art for the Amethyst animated shorts, via DC Women Kicking Ass who also writes about her reaction to the first issue of Sword of Sorcery.
How adorable is this!!!???
Such a big contrast with Sword of Sorcery, it really is a very disjointed strategy DC has taken with this character.
There is something broken about the comic book industry in that I’m about to embark on a comparison of attempted rape scenes in Amethyst Princess of Gemworld comics. Have you read Chris Sims’ post So There’s An Attempted Gang Rape in the First Issue of Amethyst? One of the things I saw brought up in the comments (which I tried not to delve too deeply into, because it is too crazy-making) is that the attempted gang rape in the new series is somehow ok because there was an attempted rape in the first series. Or maybe it was a great way of keeping both series in the same rapey continuity. I’m not sure. The idea of somebody rebooting a comic and keeping a rape attempt but jettisoning a great villain like Dark Opal is beyond my comprehension.
To tell the truth, as someone who has read the first issue of the original series of Amethyst multiple times, the attempted rape didn’t really stand out in my mind very much, being placed as it was within a narrative where Amy Winston goes to a place called the Gemworld and finds it intrinsically terrifying. The attempted rape scenes in the original comic also took up much less space – two partial pages out of a standard 32 page comic. I’m still going to buy Sword of Sorcery and I really hope that as I continue to read it I’m going to enjoy the good things about the comic and I’m going to be able to forget about the rocky first issue.
Here are the images in question so you can judge for yourself. For context, remember that Amy is a 13 year old girl who receives a mysterious amethyst necklace on her 13th birthday and is promptly kidnapped by an ogre and taken to Dark Opal’s castle.
I’m not going to say that this particular attempted rape scene is ok. When I interviewed the creators of Amethyst, Gary Cohn said, “Dan and I have often pointed out to each other that the attempted rape in the first issue was a big mistake, very much a male mistake, and if we had a do-over, that would not have made the cut.” I don’t think that the attempted rape in this context does much for the story. Amethyst’s powers are triggered by being threatened by rape. Her powers could certainly have manifested for the first time in a different context. Granch shows up and saves her, demonstrating his loyalty and coolness. He’s also portrayed as being totally bad-ass later in the comic, so it isn’t really necessary to have him rescue Amethyst from attempted rape to establish his warrior street-cred:
Granch is great!
One of the things that I find a little odd is that the original series seems to be viewed as a friendly all-ages-title that is filled with sparkles and unicorns. There certainly are some sparkles and unicorns in Amethyst, but one of the things that I think sets the first series apart from other entertainment aimed at girls at the time is that Ernie Colon’s art is extremely sophisticated, combining fantasy and horror elements with a dash of surrealism. In addition to the attempted rape, there’s plenty of gruesome things happening on the Gemworld.
We’ve got Dark Opal standing on a pile of corpses!
Creepy albino werewolf dudes!
I think though, that attempted rape in a DC comic in 2012 means something very different than an attempted rape in a DC comic from 1983. After all, Watchmen came out in 1986, and we got this:
And Identity Crisis came out in 2004 and we got this.
In 2012, I don’t interpret an attempted rape in a comic book as only an attempted rape. I interpret it as a way of saying in shorthand, “My comic is edgy!” At this point, I find rape in comic books offensive not because I’m offended by portrayals of rape, I’m offended because rape in comic books in 2012 is incredibly boring. And a lazily written attempted rape scene is even more offensive and boring. Sword of Sorcery 0‘s rape scene is offensive because it is also the worst form of nerd-pandering. A bespectacled bullied girl is targeted by the football team? Wouldn’t this scenario have been more interesting if Beryl had been a streetwise field hockey player fighting off a gang rape by the chess team? It would at least have been somewhat more unexpected.
I think that there’s some image composition issues in the most recent gang rape attempt in Amethyst that make it more graphic than the first. Beryl is held off the ground with her legs spread.
And after Amy rescues helpless Beryl from her attackers, there’s this:
Amy’s mother later reassures her that she did the right thing, and Beryl was in shock. I’m annoyed by the portrayal of Beryl as a rape victim – here we have a bullied character who is stupid enough to believe a football player would be interested in her, she’s helpless, and blames her rescuer even though there’s a reference to shock a page later. Beryl’s purpose is to contrast with Strong Female Character Amy Winston who rescues her. Is this anything we haven’t seen before, over and over again? I really hope this is the last post I feel the need to write about attempted rape in Amethyst comics. I have rape fatigue now.
Today the first issue of Sword of Sorcery came out, and since it features the latest incarnation of Amethyst Princess of Gemworld I of course bought it on Comixology as soon as I came home for work. Let’s hear it for same day print and digital comic releases! They are a glorious thing! The actual content in Sword of Sorcery was far less glorious, resulting in a comic that could only charitably be called problematic.
I’m someone who has invested a fair amount of time writing about Amethyst. I own the two maxi-series and the later mini-series. I’ve hunted down Amethyst’s later unfortunate appearances in bad 90s crossover storylines and tracked random references to her when they pop up in Legion of Super-Heroes. As a fan of the character, I was honestly a bit disappointed when the original creators of Amethyst weren’t involved or consulted in any way for the relaunch. But putting aside my fannish feelings, I wanted to see if I could go ahead and just enjoy Sword of Sorcery 0 as an entertaining comic, one that incorporates Amethyst into a new story. I genuinely wanted to give this comic a chance, but the positive aspects of the comic were completely overshadowed by an extremely poor plot choice.
Sword of Sorcery starts by introducing Amy Winston in a fairly typical coming-of-age scenario. Amy is a misfit at school with her dyed hair and odd interest in gemstones. She bonds a little bit with a mousy girl named Beryl, who doesn’t have much time for making new friends because she was just asked by a football player to meet him “behind the end zone bleachers” after the game. It is the Eve of Amy’s 17th birthday and her day doesn’t go very well since she winds up in her mobile home with her mom consuming a sad slice of carrot cake, and then is forced to train with swords and shields out in front getting wacked in the head in the process. Sensibly deciding that swordplay and mobile homes does not a make a festive celebration, Amy heads back to school to prevent a gang of football players from raping Beryl and thus establishes herself as a Strong Female Character after she beats up three jock wannabe rapists. Amy goes back to her mobile home and her mother announces that they can finally travel to Amy’s true home. In Nilaa, Lady Mordiel is gathering power for House Amethyst by inhaling her younger second cousin. Amy’s mother takes her through a portal, and they are both transformed into attractive blonde purple-wearing ladies! A group of friendly people greets them, but a fight soon breaks out as Lady Mordiel’s hunters appear to break up any semblance of a homecoming party.
In 2012 it just seems sad that I have write about rape in an Amethyst comic 13 years after Women In Refrigerators was founded. Amethyst is on that list for the following reasons, “blinded, merged with Gemworld, destroyed in LSH; became a power-hungry witch in Book of Fate.” All of those things happened to Amethyst when she was written by people who weren’t the original creative team of Dan Mishkin, Gary Cohn, and Ernie Colon. While Amethyst herself wasn’t raped in this comic, Amy’s rescue of Beryl is a very lazy way of establishing her character. Rapes happen in comics all the time, either to or around female characters. Christy Marx was quoted as saying that the original premise of Amethyst as a 13 year-old-girl in a woman’s body had been “done,” so if she is so sensitive to cliches why on earth would she decide to make a foiled rape attempt a centerpiece of this comic? I think there are around 20 pages of Amethyst story, and roughly 5 pages are dealing with the rape in some fashion – set-up, beatdown, and aftermath. I am so tired of seeing athletes portrayed as rapists too. If you have to have an attempted rape in your comic, let it be either genuinely required by the narrative or at least let it be a different type of attempted rape than a cursory scene readers would have encountered over and over again if they read mainstream superhero comics. This entire scene existed so Amy could be seen as heroic. Nothing was shown from Beryl’s point of view, and I wonder if she’ll even appear in this comic again. So what was the point?
The attempted rape scene in Amethyst completely overshadowed the positive elements of the comic. Aaron Lopresti’s art was very nice. Nilaa doesn’t have the interesting surreal elements that were present in Ernie Colon’s Gemworld, but the setting looks very mineral-rich and fantasy-esque. I was amused by the fact that there were so many blonde women from House Amethyst running around and about to be at war with each other. There were elements of humor that I would have appreciated in the comic if wasn’t so annoyed by the rape attempt. Amy’s reaction to her blond hair was great, and I enjoyed the way she has a tendency to fling herself into battle. When you only have 20 pages to establish your comic, choosing what you will include becomes so important. If I was reading 50 pages of this new Amethyst comic, the rape thing wouldn’t have stood out in my mind but I have to evaluate what is in front of me. I genuinely wanted to enjoy the first issue of Amethyst in twenty-five years, but I can’t think of this as an Amethyst comic. It is a football player rape comic that happens to feature a lot of blond ladies wearing purple.
PS: The back-up adaptation of Beowulf has gorgeous art and is very intriguing. No Rape!
Here’s the preview for the issue up on Comic Book Resources. First reaction -not the Amy Winston I’m used to, but I expected that from the previous interviews about the project. Will reserve judgement until I read the whole issue.
I’m always happy to have a local bookstore like King’s English that is so excellent at programming events. The launch of the Smart Chicks Kick It! tour was here in Salt Lake City so it was fun to go see the author panel, which consisted of Kelley Armstrong, Melissa Marr, Ally Condie, Bethany Griffin, Richelle Mead, and Margaret Stohl.
I came away with new books: The Golden Lily, Faery Tales and Nightmares, and The Gathering.
Don’t Look Back by Karin Fossum – Nice, bleak Scandinavian murder mystery. Good antidote to the usual romance-oriented genre reading I usually do.
Graphic Novels and Manga
Library Wars: Love and War #8
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